In the south of France, Walter Boekel gets enthusiastic. “Here all ambition is useless”, he wrote in March 1943 to his “dear Cherilein”. When Europe is united under German leadership after the war, the Wehrmacht officer would like to live with his family for a spring and a summer on the edge of the Cevennes – his wife Hedwig is pregnant for the first time. “It is the country for us,” he writes enthusiastically. But nothing came of it, neither from the German victory nor from Boekel’s family happiness under southern French skies.
Soldier Walter Boekel was in action for almost the entire Second World War. Boekel, born in 1914, had studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger and journalism. He left a wealth of letters and diaries in which he testified in polished, sometimes pompous language. It is obvious that these texts should form the basis for a novel to be written after the war. The novel does not exist, records from the war years are now the template for his son Christoph’s second film. “The Pull of War” tells how the war experiences shaped the father and ultimately destroyed family life.
Already at the end of the 1980s, Christoph Boekel had published “The Trace of the Father”, which focused primarily on the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and was awarded the German Film Critics’ Prize at the time. At least in terms of time, “The Pull of War” follows: Walter Boekel becomes an instructor at Battalion 999 at the end of 1942, a troop made up of criminals and political prisoners who are supposed to prove themselves in the Africa mission.
Boekel’s other stations in Belgium, southern France, Tunisia and the former Yugoslavia make the film appear like a road movie. His son returned to the places and contrasted the photo documents with views from the present. Eyewitnesses from the occupied countries provide a different perspective than that of Walter Boekel, who was inspired by “German” superiority and was sometimes difficult to bear.
In contrast to the first film, “The Suction of War” turns more inward: Christoph Boekel talks to his two brothers Michael and René in front of the camera about childhood, father and family life. But even if it is “only” about a single family and sometimes very personal details, many viewers from the post-war generation will probably find themselves in the brothers’ conversations. After all, the “decades of oppressive silence” and life with a father who was mostly absent from the cold war and returned home were not exceptional phenomena.
Cinema evaluation burst
The documentary “The Suction of War” was supposed to hit the cinemas two years ago. The impressive landscape shots, the calm and detailed narration of this almost two-hour film are probably made more for paying visitors in front of the big screen than for the impatient zapping TV viewer. But then the pandemic threw a spanner in the works for the writer, director and co-producer
After all: After the broadcast, “The Suction of War” can be accessed in the media center for a month. It would have been a perfect complement to also show Boekel’s first work again. But its broadcast failed due to rights and cost issues, as a 3Sat spokeswoman confirmed. Unfortunately not the first time that a film that has been funded by the general public and is of importance has been withheld from later generations.